Starting a Global Trade with Alibaba
Found In: Shopping
If Alibaba sounds familiar to you, it’s because it is a word that comes from an 18th century story about a poor woodcutter who entered a cave and found a treasure using the secret password, “open sesame.” Today, kids don’t know about this story, “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves” or “One Thousand and One Nights” but they sure are familiar with Alibaba.com.
Alibaba.com is just the biggest Chinese online website that sells all kinds of goods and service to individual customers while also accepting wholesale transactions. Everything is done over the Internet so there is no need for face-to-face contact, phone calls, or meet-ups. It’s like a cyber shopping mall, Chinese style. If you have never been to a mall run by Chinese, you’re in for a treat. It’s got everything you could ever imagine – and then some! You can even bargain if you plan on buying wholesale.
The Basics of Alibaba
Alibaba is a website that sells to consumers and businesses, retail and wholesale. It has its own electronic payment service, Alipay, which means you use their payment system to buy from them. However, not to worry since it’s really easy to use this. Essentially, it’s a shopping website which you subscribe to similar to eBay. You can be the buyer, the seller, or both buyer and seller.
The website was started by Jack Ma in 1999. His objective was to start a website to connect Chinese manufacturers to global buyers. The whole idea exploded on the Internet and became widely popular and controversial.
Another reason why Alibaba became such a huge success is because buyers could become sellers or vice versa. Anyone was welcome to open an account, buy or sell goods and the market was not limited to your area but the your products become available to people from all corners of the globe.
For example, if you have a food business and you need suppliers for utensils, glasses, and paper products. You can shop on Alibaba and pick verified suppliers to buy from using the Alibaba US Channel. You don’t even have to buy outright because you can request for quotations from different suppliers before making your decision.
And not to worry about subscribing to a Chinese website because everything’s in English!
How To Create An Alibaba Account
To create your Alibaba account, simply follow these steps:
- Go to the Alibabab.com US Channel website
- At the top left corner, click on the words, Join Free
- You will be directed to a registration form. Simply fill in the details like email, password, location, and contact information. You will also have to type in the security code provided. This code is used to make sure a human is creating the account, not a robot. It’s something that’s done by most credible websites so they don’t get victimized with fake accounts.
- You should read the Membership Agreement before clicking on the Create My Account button.
Pros and Cons of Using Alibaba
The advantages of using a website like Alibaba are varied. You really get to see what’s out there in the world. For example, the following products are being sold on Alibaba: horse hair, clothes, toys, charcoal, gold (!), food, cars, raw supplies, buttons, electrical supplies, and packaging supplies, among many other categories.
Buying online is very convenient although if it’s your first time, it can get stressful as you wait for your transaction to go through and for the product arrive.
Unfortunately, some products are misrepresented so if something looks too good to be true like a mobile phone for a few dollars – forget it. Walk away. Bottom line, just be diligent.
Tips and Tricks in Using Alibaba
Is fraud possible in Alibaba? Of course! Fraud is possible with everything – from sales transactions to relationships. However, there are ways to avoid being victimized whether on Alibaba or any other online website.
Tip # 1 Cheap versus Cheaper
Hands down, buying online can be much cheaper than shopping in your local grocer, hardware, or mall. But there is cheap and there is cheaper and inferior. This is why Alibaba has verified supplier status which gives you the choice of maybe paying a little more but getting what you want as advertised with excellent customer service to boot.
Generally speaking, products from Asia are cheaper. Buy anything nowadays and the sales clerk, if he is honest, will admit if a product is made for the US market by China or if it is really made in the US. Asia goods are cheaper not because they are always inferior in quality but because labor is cheaper there and the manufacturing costs are lower. The downside to buying overseas include the longer shipping time, customs clearance, and difficulties in communicating with the seller.
Tip #2 Verify Before Buying
Similar to buying on eBay, you always need to communicate with the seller before paying for any item. Make sure the items are still available and the prices have not changed. You also have to verify other costs like escrow, minimum order, production time, payment options, shipping, returns, and refunds just to make sure you understand the seller’s policy. You might come across the term FOB. This stands for “Free on Board” which means the shipping is paid for by the seller.
Tip #3 Who’s the Bad Guys of Alibaba?
Better watch out for middlemen who are not really manufacturers but pretend to be. They are simply trading and making a profit at your expense. And it’s not just that they add to the cost but they could misrepresent the actual manufacturer which would lead to a major problem in communication and in the transaction.
Another type to stay away from is the scammer. This is the person who will take your money and disappear. When Alibaba started becoming successful, there were many cases of spamming. This has been reduced dramatically over the years but one or two still manage to slip through the rigid screening process.
Tip #4 Don’t Believe Everything You Read
I would take every “High Quality” description and forget about it. In the first place, what may be high quality to a Chinese businessman may be atrocious to me. Did you know that in Asia, many products are labeled as “original,” “Class A,” Class B,” and so on? Yet they all look the same! Before ordering anything in bulk, order a sample. Use that word with the supplier: sample. Some reputable manufacturers will even send you a free sample if the cost is minimal or give a discount for one sample. Once you get the sample, decide whether the quality is good enough for you.
Ready To Go?
Time to log into your account. Simply click the Sign In button and type in your name/email address and password. Happy shopping!